Why studying in my hometown was the best decision ever

Hometown study best decision

What if you could follow your dreams and get your degree without having to pack up and move to the big city? For Stacey Tomlinson, choosing to study from her hometown of Bathurst in regional New South Wales allowed her to study not one but two degrees, keep in touch with friends and family, get a taste of working life and land the job of her dreams.

Stacey shared her story about why studying in her hometown was her best decision and how studying on campus with Charles Sturt University (CSU) led to a rewarding career in teaching.

Stress-free from the start

I’ve lived my whole life in Bathurst – born and raised. I went to All Saints’ College and finished school in 2010. The main reason I decided to go to CSU was because I have never been a fan of Sydney or big cities, so the idea of a rural uni experience really connected with me. I had also done campus tours while still at school and really liked the feel of the campus. The idea of smaller classroom sizes really appealed to me. I was fortunate enough to also gain an early offer, which made my decision to choose CSU in Bathurst very easy and stress-free.

Discovering my passion

I completed the Bachelor of Exercise Science first (2011–2013). I initially chose to do this degree because I really enjoyed sport and was interested in it but wasn’t exactly sure what in this field I wanted to focus on. This course provided me with insight into a wide variety of sporting careers as a stepping stone for further specialised study after. I then completed my Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary) (2014–2016) as I realised that teaching was my passion.

Home sweet home

Choosing to study in my hometown had the benefits of familiarity. I knew the layout of the town, was already an active member of a local sporting team (hockey) and felt comfortable being here. University itself was completely different to anything I had ever experienced and so while I was adjusting myself to the social and academic life of university, it was nice to not have every aspect of my life completely change. Plus it was nice to have my family close to go and see when I needed that home-cooked meal when I was slightly stressed.

Study in a regional city

It was fantastic – I could not recommend this highly enough! The best part about it was having the smaller classroom sizes. This meant that not only did I get to know and become friends with my whole cohort, it also meant more focused learning. All my lecturers knew me by name and a bit about who I was and where I wanted my degree to take me. This also helped if I was ever struggling with something we were learning about as I felt comfortable approaching my lecturers for help. The campus itself had a very warm, friendly and welcoming vibe. This was helped by the smaller numbers as it meant you recognised and knew a lot more people you saw around the campus. Not to mention being regional allowed for lots of nice grassed areas, perfect for some outdoor study (when it wasn’t too frosty/cold).

At the heart of the action

I wanted the full university experience, which I felt I gained by living on campus. I chose to live in the Diggings cottages which had eight people living together in self-catered accommodation. My sister chose to go to another university (due to the course offering at the time) and lived on campus so my family thought it was only fair I got the same experience. I’m so glad I did. By living on campus I was automatically introduced to a wide number of people doing multiple different degrees, different age groups and from different backgrounds. Without living with these people, whether in my cottage itself or spread throughout the campus, I would potentially never have spoken to some of these people. The people I lived with throughout my time on campus became a second family to me whom I am still close with today and will be for many years to come.

A family of support

It definitely made it easier studying close to home. There were times when it all got a bit stressful and even a bit overwhelming and so it was nice to be able to duck home pretending I needed to pick something up but really just wanting a hug from mum (I think she knew but never said anything). There is a lot of support available at CSU which is fantastic but it was great to be close to family, so I didn’t need to go and talk to my residential adviser much – I was able to vent to my family. One big thing was that not once did I ever experience the homesick feeling that the majority of the first years I was living with were going through.

The best bits of uni

There are so many amazing experiences from my time at CSU that it’s near impossible to narrow it down to just a few. Obviously one of my big passions is sport, so probably the biggest highlights were my Uni Games experiences (now known as Nationals). I went for hockey every year as a Hawkie and in my final year the girls’ soccer team was short on numbers so I found myself as a Chillie as well. Through this I travelled to Wagga Wagga, Wollongong, Canberra, Newcastle and Tamworth. I had the honour of captaining the girls’ hockey team to a gold medal and in my final year I was the Team CSU female captain. Ask anyone who has gone – this is the busiest, craziest, most rewarding week and I would highly encourage anyone who has the chance to put their name down. You’ll have hilarious stories to tell for years to come.

The other probably obvious highlight was my second graduation ceremony; when I was officially able to be a teacher. All that hard work, sweat, tears, dreams and sacrifices came down to me walking across the stage and receiving that all-important piece of paper. I was one of the last three people to go across the stage so everyone was a bit tired by the time it reached my name. Seeing your peers, lecturers, friends, family and CSU staff who had helped you through your course and CSU journey smile at you and tell you how proud they are – it’s an awesome feeling. Throughout your time at uni you’ll see your friends and dormies all get their photos in their gowns at graduation – but it really is special when it’s finally your turn.

Clubs and sports galore

I could go on and on about the CSU sporting and social clubs for hours. One big thing I want to stress to you is that CSU is the type of place that you will get out what you put in. The more you get involved and join groups and clubs or attend events, the more rewarding your university experience will be. During my time at the uni, I was a member of the Diggings social committee and the Combined Residence Association (CRA). These two social groups were responsible for putting on events for the students to enjoy.

Sport was my main area I got involved with at CSU. As mentioned, I participated in the Eastern Uni Games each year. I was a member of the Sports Council which is responsible for running social sports and helping all the sporting clubs with running – I was president of this my final two years at uni. Clubs-wise before I came to uni I had never played soccer before but one of my best friends I lived with was part of CSUFC [Charles Sturt University Football Club] and she convinced me to join. This was the best decision I had ever made; I joined their third-grade side and haven’t looked back since (I actually still play for them even this year). I made so many new friends from joining, a lot who like me had never played before. For the exact same reason I also joined the CSU netball club. I’d never played netball properly before but had the best season with a great group of girls.

If you want to meet new people, definitely join a club – you won’t be sorry you did. My main sport is hockey. It’s the one I’ve been playing since I was four so I already had my team in the town comp; however, my second year of uni I coached the CSU fourth-grade side. Again a lot of the girls wanted to meet new people; some had played before while others had never picked up a stick. The girls managed to come from fourth place in the finals to win the comp which was very exciting. No matter what your interest – sporting, cultural or social – there is definitely a group or team for you. You just need to put your name down.

Exploring my social side

The best and worst thing about uni is that there is always something to do or someone to talk to. It is the best thing because not once in my time did I ever say I was bored, but it is very easy to procrastinate from doing your work. Make sure to save all your dress ups because there are theme nights multiple nights each week – whether they are on-campus specific events or university-wide events at Rafters bar or at downtown venues. Highlights include Drs and Nurses, 80s prom, 90s night, When I Grow Up and Dag Night just to name a few.

Juggling work, study and life

I worked as a CSU student ambassador while I was at uni – so my job was giving prospective students campus tours and going into schools to talk to Year 11 and 12 students about the university and answer any questions they had about what uni was really like. Balance was tricky. It’s all too easy to get caught up with all of the social events, movie nights in the common room and sporting team bonding events. I found getting one of the year planners from CSU Print and putting it up on my wall was useful. This way I wrote down when all my assessments were due, exams, work and sporting commitments and finally all the social events I wanted to go to. This way I was able to manage my time and not have to be a stress head from not leaving enough time for uni work/study.

Getting hands-on

My course gave me all the skills and knowledge that I needed, including what I learnt on prac, to be able to be confident in the classroom. My course, particularly exercise science, was very hands-on in the learning. We often had tutorials in the exercise science labs to physically experience what we were learning about in the lectures. This included body measurements of skinfold thickness, cycling in a heat chamber of 40 degrees to see the effects on the body, ice baths and VO2 max testing just to name a few. Teaching-wise we did practical subjects such as athletics and aquatics, and games and sport. Both these were as if we were back in PE class – except now we were learning how to teach the skills and modify the games to make them enjoyable. The best part about the placements was putting into practice all that we had learnt in the lecture theatres to see what teaching strategies worked for my teaching style.

Straight into a job I love

From when I graduated until January this year, I took over managing the CSU Bathurst gym. For my first practical experience in my exercise science degree I chose to work in a gym, so that was helpful for my job. During my time, I upgraded the equipment and managed to extend the opening hours to include weekends, which was exciting. Currently, I’m working in the education field. I had a term block out at Oberon High School during term 1 this year teaching PDHPE [personal development, health and physical education]. I absolutely loved it – it’s always great to get into the field you studied and realise it really is exactly what you wanted to do with your life. For term 2, I’ve been working as a casual teacher around the area. It was scary not being permanently employed; however, there is plenty of work around this region and the schools are so great it isn’t an issue.

Why I stayed in a regional city

I really like the Bathurst region. Bathurst itself has everything I could want. It’s big enough that it has shopping, sport and a social life but also small enough that it’s easy to get to know people across town. The best thing is there are so many schools either in town or within 45 minutes that there are plenty of opportunities to get work. The main reason I stayed is that I have a big but very close family (both immediate and extended) who are in this region so I like being able to attend all the family events.

My CSU experience in three words

Challenging, rewarding and unforgettable.

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